With 2:43 left in regulation, it was looking like Ball State Men’s Basketball (2-3, 0-0 MAC) would leave the Charleston Classic with a win as it held an 11-point lead over Appalachian State (1-4, 0-0 Sun Belt).
But the tables would suddenly turn for the Cardinals as the Mountaineers would go on a 17-6 run to tie the game and force overtime. In overtime the period, the Cardinals took control of the game, going on a 11-0 scoring run to grab the win, 94-86.
“The thing I was really proud of our time was our composure,” head coach James Whitford said. “You could see it as we came back to the bench after they tied the game. We didn’t get rattled and we stayed with it. We played a good game for 40 minutes, we regrouped, came back and got the win.”
The Cardinals were hot on offense, scoring a season high 94 point in the finish with redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons knocking down 29 points and going a perfect 12-12 at the line. Redshirt junior guard KJ Walton also had a strong day with 22 points with a 63 precent field goal accuracy.
Unlike the first two games in this tournament, the Cardinals started off strong going on a 13-5 run to start off the game. The Mountaineers would comeback to pull within two, but the Cardinals remained ahead throughout. Redshirt senior center Trey Moses was a force for the Cardinals in the first half racking up 9 points and going 4-7 from field goal range. With no points in the game and three fouls at the half, redshirt junior forward Tahjai Teague was limited to his time on the court.
“He [Teague] needs to know that he cannot reach,” Whitford said. “What I’ve unsuccessfully been able to tell Tahjai is he has to be able to buy into not reaching. He gets away with it enough to where it reenforces the wrong message. You’re not going to be perfect in fouling, but the controllable one is the reach.”
The majority of the second half was all Cardinals. With the Mountaineers collecting 15 fouls in the second half, Ball State would see the majority of their points coming from free throws. Walton downed 15 points in the second half while going 5-6 at the line. Teague collected 10 points going 3-4 at the line.
When it looked like the Cardinals had the win locked up, a comeback by the Mountaineers would send the game to overtime. After junior forward Kyle Mallers went 1-2 at the line to give Ball State a narrow 80-78 lead, senior guard Ronshad Shabazz would layup to tie the game at 80. Shabazz lead the Mountaineers with 37 points.
In overtime, the Cardinals proved to be deadly at the line once again. Persons would go 6-6 at the line and Walton 1-2. Four more points from Persons and a three-pointer from Teague would seal the win for the Cardinals.
“We played the right game for 45 minutes,” Whitford said. “Truth be told, we have every game this year except for one. There’s shame in the game we had against Purdue, there’s no shame in the second half against Virginia Tech and we had double digit leads on a good team today. We’ll get better from this tournament. That’s why we play it.”
The Cardinals finish the Charleston Classic at 1-2, suffering losses to No. 16 Virginia Tech and Alabama. The Cardinals will take on Evansville at home on Nov. 24.
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